Not My Hobby

img_6421 Today, I patronized my least favorite store. All of the clerks are tired and surly. I don’t blame them. If you follow the news at all, you know that the store’s owner beats the Bible over employee heads without a thought.

And yes, for the record, I believe birth control is a right. I’m a feminist and a liberal.

And a Christian.

That’s only part of the reason why this place sucks.

When our children were young, Bacon worked there for six months. He was enticed by the sign in the front window.

  • JOIN THE HOBBY LOBBY TEAM.
  • We promote from within.
  • Management positions available.

At hiring, the manager promised to start him out as a cashier. He never made it to the front of the store unless it was with a ladder. Instead, he reported at dawn to unload a truck. Never mind that he has two college degrees, customer service skills, and spent a year in seminary. He was muscle to HL. They didn’t care that his muscles were over 50.

One Tuesday, he finished an eight hour shift and hung his blue apron on the break room peg. He was in a hurry to pick up Coco from school when the assistant manager told him to recheck the schedule. Three extra hours had been added next to his name. On a normal day, Bacon would sling the apron back over his head and clock back in, but Coco was waiting.  He tried to explain, “My nine-year old is alone at school–”  His boss put a hand up in front of his face. He wasn’t hearing it.

So Bacon left.

He was fired the next day. Two weeks later, he was denied unemployment benefits. So much for family values. Amazing Grace sounds more than a little tinny to me over Hobby Lobby’s P.A. system.

Years later, I’m still chafed about it, but it hasn’t stopped me from occasionally taking advantage of the low prices on the backs of poor Chinese (and American) laborers.

I’m ashamed.

I didn’t browse. I wasn’t tempted by acres of whatnots, by bling so flaky and intense that Bacon used to complain about glitter-in-my-crack syndrome. No. I walked directly to the picture hangers, selected a package, and carried it to the front. I got in line.  A very long line. Only one cashier was working.

I waited.

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Not a bar code in sight.

Hobby Lobby uses an archaic system of ringing up purchases. There are no bar codes or scanners. Each cashier puts in an inventory number by hand. Every discount is added manually at the time of purchase. Today’s big bargain: dried flowers 50% off. The shopper in front of me bought a cart full.

The cashier brandished a bouquet of feathers on a pick. “These aren’t discounted. They’re not flowers.”

The customer straightened and stepped closer to the counter. She knew how to stand her ground in face of discount denial. “Well, they’re on the same aisle as the rest.”

The cashier rolled her shoulder toward the assistant manager, who was guarding the door (in case an octogenarian made a run for it with a set of glitter encrusted Mason Jars.) Without leaving her post, the boss decided the offer included feathers. The purchase totaled $103.49. Eucalyptus, (also not technically a flower) dried ragweed, (I mean baby’s breath), and raffia were bagged along with the feathers on a stick.

It was finally my turn.

I slapped my two packages on the counter, produced a five, and walked away with change. On my way out I said, “Have a good day.”

The cashier looked at me for the first time. “Oh. . . Thanks. . . You too.”

It’s a tough job.

It’s been a long day without you, my friend

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.*

The longer I’m away from anything, the harder it is to make my way back. That book on the nightstand—I put it down one night and didn’t have the nerve to crack it open the next—becomes a member of the DNF list.

Did Not Finish.

Since I’ve been gone, Coco started high school. Cherry is on the endless mailing list of college recruiters. And Bacon underwent dozens of medical tests that promised scary outcomes, but proved nothing. I’ve become a middle-aged, female  Atlas, holding our world over my head while screeching, “Don’t eat that. Eat this. Put down your phone. Finish your homework.”

My arms hurt.

My mother always told me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I shouldn’t blame my absence on Mom. I’ve been occupied. And whiny.

I hate whiners.

My girl Hillary lost the election. Today’s news brings it home. She was robbed. We were robbed.

Whining.

I kicked my next door neighbor out of my house last October. She said he wasn’t a racist. I reminded her, “My children aren’t white.” She said he doesn’t believe what he’s been saying. With my hand on the doorknob, I told her, “If it walks like a duck, if it talks like a duck, it’s a duck.” I shut the door behind her.

I’m a red state snowflake.

We made nice over Christmas. I wish I’d served duck soup.

*Wiz Khalifa

Algorithms

Label this under stuff I don’t like.

I hate algorithms. I loved Pinterest until more than half my feed became, Picked for you.

Yesterday, I searched for red painted chairs. Today, you guessed it, my feed is mostly red chairs. I don’t want another red chair. I have one already, a sentimental ladder back my dad rescued from a junk pile. I love it. But one is enough.

Why did I type red chairs in the search box? Images. I search when I write. I want the perfect red chair to sit behind a computer psychic’s work desk. I want the perfect red chair next to the fireplace in my main character’s log cabin. I have the perfect red chair for me in my own house.

Why does social media insist I’m so meager that I can’t think for myself? What if tomorrow I need to describe yard art? A six-foot, ceramic alligator? Will the Bots-That-Be throw reptiles in my face for a month?

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My Red Chair